I’m almost embarrassed to share a key leadership lesson I’ve been learning recently. Embarrassed because it feels like something I should have learned well before my forties. But I didn’t. And just in case there is anyone else out there like me, and because this lesson has been so life-changing, I want to lay it out there.
Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me (John 15:4, The Message).
When I came into my current leadership position four years ago, I felt unprepared. No, actually clueless, about what I would need to do to lead an organization. Determined to learn the ropes before people found me out, I read every book, attended every conference, and asked advice from every leader I could find. I took frantic notes, had planning days to figure out how to implement new ideas, and did put a lot of great structure in place. But then something happened. My team asked me not to go to any more leadership conferences, because they were overwhelmed trying to implement all my new ideas!
After about two years of this, I was exhausted. One day, as I was trying to get even more leadership advice from a trusted friend, she began to ask me questions about my relationship with God. How were my times with him? (Um…listening to worship music during my commute?) What kind of space or margin was I making for spiritual refreshment? (Margin? With a full-time job and two kids?) I started squirming a bit, because I knew where she was headed.
So I started replacing my leadership books with Dallas Willard books. And my leadership conferences with spiritual formation retreats. And asking advice from other leaders with asking God to speak to me. Not because any the pursuit of leadership brilliance was wrong or unimportant, but because I had been neglecting the more essential leadership training—being a branch and drawing nourishment from the Vine.
And God met me. He didn’t scold me, he refreshed me and filled me up and spoke to me. And I was amazed to find that leading was much more enjoyable when I was drawing life from the Vine. Not only more enjoyable, but more wise. As I asked for wisdom he guided me into even better decisions. Once, at a brainstorming meeting for new wording for our messaging, we got stuck and ended with no resolution on one particular category. I left the meeting frustrated, shut the door to my office and said, “God, how do we say this?” Immediately a word popped into my mind and that word is still a key part of our messaging today. What we couldn’t solve in a two-hour meeting, God solved in two minutes!
I’m still on this journey, still learning these lessons two years later. I want to keep growing in my dependence on God; to pray instead of trying to control outcomes: to make space for God when things at work are the most hectic; to spend more time relishing the life that comes from sitting at the feet of the ultimate Leader.
How about you? How do you make space for God as a leader?
Written by Angie Weszely